Why These Brand New Chinese Skyscrapers Must Be Razed

TIANJIN — In the frenzy of China's real estate speculation, what goes up must sometimes come down — right away. Two brand new 31-story buildings and another 65-story skyscraper are set to be demolished in China's northeast port city of Tianjin after undergoing unauthorized design changes during construction.

According to the China Times, the three hotel-style, high-end residential buildings in a development called Waterfront Ginza, were originally planned to be 169 and 100 meters tall. But when they were recently completed, their heights were actually 208 meters and 188 meters. This substantial increase in total area and extra floors were deemed to create a serious safety hazard, and the Tianjin authorities decided for demolition before they were ever occupied.

The China Times quoted informed sources as saying that, because the buildings' main structures are already complete, the tearing down can't be carried out with explosives. Instead, they will have to be demolished manually. Experts engaged in the demolition project said there is so far no precedent for tearing down high rises more than 200 meters tall, so the work will be very challenging.

The three multi-million-dollar buildings were developed by Zhao Jin, son of a former Jiangsu Provincial Party secretary general named Zhao Shaolin, a notorious businessman who colluded with government officials in intimidating and forcing people out of their homes. Both son and father were imprisoned last year for bribery and other corruption charges.

Qiu Baoxing, vice minister of China's Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, said last year that China is the global leader in annual construction volume, consuming nearly half of the world's cement and steel.

Yet Chinese buildings have an average life span of just 25 to 30 years, according to Caixin media. That is less than one-fourth the life of a UK building at 132 years, and half that of an American building — 74 years.

The amount of construction waste generated by demolishing old buildings and constructing new ones is colossal and presents a serious environmental issue.

Caixin characterized this particularly short lifespan as a "Chinese-style" urban degradation, caused by bad urban planning, the blind pursuit of vanity projects and corruption.

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